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Searching for Some Emotional Support? These 10 Dog Breeds Can Help With Anxiety

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Did you know that almost any type of dog can improve your mental health?

Many studies have proven that just spending time around your dog, as well as petting and snuggling with him, helps lessen anxiety, depression, stress and even loneliness.

But sometimes, we need a little more support. Our dogs can help provide that needed emotional support no matter if we have anxiety, depression or just need a pick-me-up.

What are emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs?

An emotional support animal (ESA) can ease anxiety when you are out in the world, especially indoors and in crowded places. You’ve probably seen these fur babies being pushed in shopping carts, on the laps of people in airplanes, in restaurants, and more. But due to the many complaints received, ESAs are no longer allowed on airplanes, and it’s up to the discretion of other businesses or venues to allow ESAs or not.

The only way to make sure that your dog can go everywhere with you, legally, is if your pet is a trained psychiatric service dog (PSD). According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, to qualify to have a Service Dog, a handler must have a disability and the dog must be specifically trained to help with that disability. If someone has anxiety or depression, that may be an impairment, but not being able to function on a basic level due to that condition is a disability.

“PSDs can help their handlers function in a variety of situations,” says Jennifer Cattet Ph.D., Executive Director, Medical Mutts Service Dogs, which trains rescued dogs and qualified pet dogs as service dogs. “They can help a person calm down when they get anxious by redirecting their attention or giving them deep pressure therapy (the dog will lay on their lap), get medication or help.”

Related: What You Need to Know to Get an Emotional Support Animal 

Determining which dog breeds could help with anxiety

If you already have a dog you love, you can get it training to possibly provide some or all of the extra mental health assistance you might need.

But if you’re looking to get a new pet, you might want to consider finding a dog with characteristics that would make them more likely to help you with anxiety.

When Cattet goes to a shelter to pick out potential PSDs, she looks for the following traits:

  • Confidence. PSDs need to be able to work in all sorts of places and not get worried.
  • Sociability. The best PSDs are easygoing, happy-go-lucky pooches who love being around people and other animals.
  • Trainability. Cattet and her team train each dog for 30 different behaviors.

These three characteristics can potentially be found in certain breeds, including mutts.

Large emotional support dogs that help with anxiety

Whether you get your new dog from the pound or from a breeder, here are Cattet’s choices for the top dog breeds to help people with anxiety.

1. English Labrador Retriever

“Many people don’t realize that there are two types of Labradors,” says Cattet. “They look similar, but they have very different personalities.” Many breeds have “working lines,” which are bred to work, and “show lines,” which are bred to show in competitions, and are often required to spend a great deal of time in training and new situations.

Unlike the “working line” of American Labrador Retrievers (which are consistently ranked America’s favorite dog) that have a high energy level and were bred for hunting, the “show line,” or English Labradors, are more low-key and less anxious in new situations. Both lines are smart and loving, says Cattet, and many American Labradors can also make wonderful Service Dogs, as well as emotional support helpers for those with anxiety.

2. Golden Retriever

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Outgoing and eager to please, these family-friendly pooches make great PSDs. Again, if possible, look for those that come from the show line. If you’re not sure which line they’re from, or if they are part of a mixed breed, you can test them for temperament to make sure they will make a great emotional support dog. “We take dogs out of the kennel to an outdoor run and we see how quickly they want to interact with us,” says Cattet. “Are they concerned about us, do they need to warm up to us or do they immediately want to interact and be friends? We test how they react to different strange objects, and what they do when they're afraid. Are they curious, kind of tentative but curious, or do they bounce back quickly? Do they bark at the object, do they lunge and bark and want to go after that scary thing, or do they hide behind it?” Cattet says that the best choice for a potential PSD is one that is immediately friendly, and, when presented with a strange object, is concerned at first but quickly bounces back. Dogs that stay away from interacting with people and don’t recover from a reaction to a new object don’t usually make it through PSD training.

3. Standard Poodle or Doodle

Unlike their smaller cousins, Standard Poodles are strong, as well as smart. They are great with families and generally train easily. Doodles are breeds mixed with poodles, such as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles. Cattet says doodles are generally smart and easy to train. The biggest issue is that they can be a little anxious when it comes to going out in public.

Related: 50 Best Small Dog Breeds to Own as Pets

Best small emotional support dogs

Here are some smaller dog breeds with the most potential to help you with emotional support, according to Cattet:

4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


If you’re looking for an affectionate, gentle buddy, look no further than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Willing to adapt to their owners’ needs, they can be sporty or couch potatoes.

5. Bichon Frise

Are you allergic to dogs, but wish you had one to lend emotional support and help you with anxiety? You might want to consider this breed. The trademark Bichon Frise has a white hypoallergenic coat. These lovers train easily and make friends everywhere they go.

Related: 25 Adorable Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds That Don't Shed 

6. Basset Hound

If you’re looking for a low-key pooch, you’ve found it here. They’re not fast, but they’re steady. Bassets are agreeable, and very loyal dogs.

7. Dachshund


This “hotdog” pooch is smart and playful. Bred as hunters, they are brave and vigilant. Their sweet nature and unmistakable look wins them fans everywhere.

8. Chihuahua

Want someone who loves you and only you? A Chihuahua may be a good choice for an emotional support dog, as they tend to bond only with one person. Not great with strangers, this little buddy will stick with you, but may bark at those he doesn’t know or like.

Related: 15 Most Affectionate Dog Breeds to Give You Emotional Support (and Puppy Cuddles)

9. Pug


These cuties have a face only a pet mom or dad could love. They love to sit in your lap, lending great emotional support for those with anxiety, but they aren’t very sporty. Since research shows that dogs help people relax, this laid-back dog is a good option.

10. Mutt

That rescue dog you fall in love with could be a terrific anxiety helper. Says Cattet, “With the right temperament and trainability, any dog can be the perfect companion to help with your emotional support.”

Up next: 7 Tried and True Strategies to Help You Deal with Anxiety


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